Stathatos, John. (7 of 9). Oral History of British Photography
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Interviewee's home, nr Finsbury Park, London, United Kingdom
Stathatos, John, 1947-, (speaker, male)
Read, Shirley, (speaker, female)
Part 7. The YBAs became a brand name because this then is easy to promote and suited everyone. It became the cool, fashionable image. Part of the trend towards celebrity and branding. Personally quite pessimistic about this, thinks the late 20th century & British art of the time will be seen as rather poor. Rather like the Victorian museums which are full of uninteresting work. After the critics mistake with Impressionism no critic wants to make the same mistake now. Had had the usual educated European's interest in the visual arts but it developed more professionally through photography. No grounding in the history of photography and art history courses are sniffy about photographic history - little familiarity with the history of photography. Quite a lot of writing John Stathatos (JS) did in the 1980s was about removing photography from the ghetto, an attack on the separateness of photographic institutions. That battle long since won. The question is now 'is photography a medium worth considering in its own right' and the answer is yes. Its a far richer and more extensive medium in terms of the issues it raises because of its vast range of disciplines and activities Some photography is part of the discourse of the visual arts, some is and isn't and some definitely isn't so it makes a viable discipline. A problem of arts institutions here as opposed to North America and Europe is a resistance to using outside or free-lance curators. The Photographers Gallery doesn't know what its role is anymore. Sue Davies has been under recognised. It achieved what she set it up to do. Two ugly and difficult spaces, it needed to move and expand ten years ago. Increasingly unfocused. Historical problems. For instance that the V&A rather than the Tate has the national photographic collection. The Tate is still able to ignore photography and, as the previous Director said, photographs by artists are acceptable to the Tate but not photographs by photographers. The V&A doesn't have the resources. We don't really have an institution which deals with photography in a really serious manner. Bradford is into the spectacle of photography. A collection of national importance has to be in the capital. Exciting exhibition by Ian Jeffrey. Exhibitions don't tour enough in Britain. In Visible Light also didn't tour. Involvement with Greek photography. In 1997 curated a survey exhibition called 'Image and Icon, the new Greek Photography' a survey exhibition, commissioned by Greek Ministry of Culture. Has had a long tour, a large exhibition. Interesting 19thC Greek photography and from pre and immediate post war period then in 1950s and 1960s there were no photography schools or infrastructure and it was dominated by an old fashioned pictorialism. Then a group of young photographers appeared who had studied abroad, founded the Photography Centre of Athens, a gallery and centre, like the Photographers Gallery without a subsidy. Its sociologically a movement rather than ideologically, currently successful. Has curated 5 large exhibitions in Greece over the last 8 years. Curating a show for the Salonika photograph festival, it will tour in Greece. No time to do the work to make it tour abroad.